Bias! The four-letter word identifies cultural prejudice that’s rampant throughout our society and the workplace. Today, most people in the workplace are more aware of unconscious or implicit bias, which is defined as prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair.
If we take that notion just a half-step further, it’s easy to see how performance bias is a very serious issue for women in the workplace. Performance bias is based on deep-rooted assumptions about women’s and men’s abilities. Bottom line, we tend to overestimate men’s performance and underestimate women’s performance. Watch this 2-minute online video from Lean In to digest the seriousness of the issue.
Studies show that women are often hired based on past accomplishments and job experience, men are more likely hired based on future potential to achieve. Insidious performance bias affects everything at work – from hiring, to performance reviews and ultimately to promotions and upward mobility.
When you remove gender from decision-making, however, the odds for women’s advancement go up. Regardless of the criteria outlined for a position, the selection process bends to favor the male candidate every time. There’s no question that women have to accomplish more to show they are equally as competent as men – I’ve experienced it, coached women through it and watched it happen for decades in the workplace.
Once we recognize performance bias for what it is, what do we do about it? First ask yourself, what are the expectations and realities at your workplace? Are women being promoted based on their potential or are they being promoted only after they’ve proven they can do the job and have a track-record of success?
How about you, could you be part of the problem? Do you expect to be promoted based on your potential or your own past performance? There’s not just bias in the workplace, we have also been conditioned to develop our own self-bias.
If you are the manager and the one who has the power to address performance bias in your workplace, it’s critical to examine your own bias. Whether you’re interviewing, hiring or deciding who gets the next promotion, be deliberate and intentional in making these important decisions.
Each of us has a responsibility to learn specific ways performance bias shows up in the workplace and what we can do about it going forward. If we don’t, we’re part of the problem. If you’re experiencing performance bias and need help developing a strategy to overcome it, please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.